Simple [Sim-puhl]

Simple [Sim-puhl]
-adjective
1. easy to understand, deal with, use, etc.
2. not elaborate or artificial; plain
3. not ornate or luxurious; unadorned

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bragging Rights!

This year for the Christmas party at my work they held a Chili cook-off and I spiritedly entered. Two dropped out so that left me and four other contestants. All of the chili's entered we very different from each other. There was a chili verde with shredded pork, a vegetarian chili, and other varieties of bean and ground beef.
I have always wanted to enter a chili cook-off so I took it very seriously and stuck to a recipe I'd made up many years ago. I had everything I needed; at least I thought I did, until it came time to add seasoning and the chili powder was no where to be found. "Oh well! Can't win them all." I thought, and finished my recipe. I put it in a Crockpot and drove to work, it smelled pretty good so I was still hopeful. My boss pulled the top off as soon as I finished plugging in my slow-cooker. " Wow, that smells good." she told me and I thanked her for the compliment. When it came time to cast my vote it was very difficult because they were all so different I wanted to be fair. I did not vote for myself (I thought that would be a little tacky anyway.) But, I did win the Best Chili prize!
Since there wasn't any of my prize-winning-chili left over for my family to try; I made another batch today for dinner and it turned out even better! Here's the recipe:

My Prize Winning Chili
By Bethany Thompson

1 lbs Ground Beef
2 cans Light Red Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans Ro*Tel Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies Original
1 small can Tomato Sauce
1/2 carton Beef Stock (or to taste as it cooks)
1/2 Sweet Onion, diced
1/2 Green Bell Pepper, diced
1 Jalapeno Pepper- seeds and membrane removed, diced
1 large clove Garlic, minced
1 Tbsp Butter
Salt
Pepper
1/2 tsp Sirachi Sauce (I'm guessing because I just eyeballed-it)
1+ tsp Ground Cumin (Ditto)
1/2 tsp Paprika (Ditto again)
1-2 Tbsp Brown Sugar (about)

Break up ground beef in hot pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper and brown until no pink remains.
Combine beans and tomatoes in a large pot, add browned beef, and rinse frying pan. Heat butter in pan until melted, add onion, peppers, garlic and sprinkle with salt. Cook until peppers are soft and onions are translucent, add to bean and meat pot mixture. Add seasonings to chili pot being careful with the Sirachi (this is what makes it super hot or pleasantly warm.) Add stock a little at a time and give it a good stirring to get the consistency you want. Simmer chili while you make a pan of cornbread, about an hour or more. As the chili thickens just keep adding stock now and then until you're ready to eat it and it gets to a good chili consistency. You can cook it in a big pot or throw it in the crock pot to cook on low all day. It does get a thicker consistency if you cook it in a pot on the stove though (Like what you see come from a can type of consistency- I like it best.)
The only difference between tonight and the competition was I used a medium can of tomato sauce and not as much beef stock, but trust me this way is so much better!

Making your own chili is not cheaper than buying a can of it. But... It is so much more delicious, nutritious and rewarding. ;-)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Homemade Holidays

I added a few new recipes to my holiday baking this year. I have traditional family recipes I use every year for Pumpkin Bread and Gumdrop Bars, but I had not found just the right Gingerbread Men recipe until this year. I found a recipe on a blog I have recently started following and made some additions. My sister-in-law gave me a recipe for gingerbread houses a few years ago and I loved the spice mixture in that recipe so I adjusted the new recipe to include 1 tsp of vanilla and an extra tsp of cinnamon. Now I am addicted! These Gingerbread Cookies are soft and delicious and get even better as they age.
Another new thing I decided to try this year was Brittle. Last Christmas my mother-in-law bought a big bowl of half peanut brittle and half cashew nut brittle. The cashew nut brittle disappeared, but the peanut brittle lasted quite a while. I found this recipe for Cashew Nut Brittle on a blog I have followed for years. It looked so easy so I decided to try it. Love it! It's so delicious and so easy to make! My only complaint is it doesn't make more; but since it is so easy to make, whipping up another batch is no problem!
Another recipe I'll be making this week is Santa's Thumbprints Cookies. They are my Dad's favorite and I am a little sad I have only made them once before for him. It'll be a real treat! Thoughtful homemade gifts are the best after all.

Santa's Thumbprints
By Quaker Oats and Crisco

1 1/2 cups Butter Flavor Crisco (I hate that it's artificial! I used butter and 1/4 cup more flour.)
1 cup Brown Sugar, firmly packed
1 Egg
1 Tbsp Vanilla
2 1/2 cups Quaker Oats (I use Old Fashioned)
2 cups All-purpose Flour
1/2 tsp Salt (optional)
1 3/4 cups Nuts, finely chopped (peanuts are great)
2/3 cup Fruit Preserves (Raspberry jam is my first choice, but Gooseberry tastes the best!)

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Beat Crisco and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add combined oats, flour and salt; mix well. Form 1-inch balls; roll in nuts. Place 2-inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Press centers with thumb; fill with preserves. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove to wire rack; cool completely. Makes about 4 1/2 dozen.

Note- DO NOT BE TEMPTED TO EAT COOKIES  BEFORE THEY HAVE COMPLETELY COOLED! HOT JAM IS LIKE MOLTEN LAVA.  It will burn all your taste buds off! (This is the voice of experience.)

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Car Snacks

For Thanksgiving this year my husband and I drove 10 hours to spend several days with his family. We gave his 20 year old niece and his mother a ride as well. This was a semi-interesting journey. I was knitting Granny Dishcloths most of the time; while our niece napped with her ear buds in, and my mother-in-law commented on the other drivers on the road. My husband just drove and listened to the radio; he was very patient, I was proud of him. ;)
For a trip like this I didn't want to be eating road food the whole time (a.k.a. candy bars, chips and hamburgers.) so I stuck my nose into my newest cookbook and found a recipe for a Car Snack.

I don't usually read cookbooks, but this one was so delightful I read it cover to cover within a week after it arrived. I identified with the authoress, she must be a kindred spirit.;) There is a descriptive personal story to accompany each recipe and I felt like I really was there with Alana in her kitchen sitting on her couch. (Revolutionary idea by the way, I will have to get a couch for my own kitchen!)
The cereal bars were delicious and fun to eat and had lots of fiber to help me digest while sitting in a car for 10 hours. ( As I get older I find this becomes increasingly important to me.) I was able to recover from traveling quickly. It was great! Even my husband's niece liked them.
The Homemade Pantry is now one of my favorite cookbooks. There are recipes for most of the basic things you buy at the store and they look like simple recipes too. I have only tried one recipe so far but I am itching to try them all! Alana also has a blog where she shares her most recent experiences and recipes. She posted a recipe for Maple Apple Chips I am so looking forward to making among other things. I am so grateful to people like Alana Chernila who inspire and teach me ways I can simplify my life. Allot of the recipes I find to make from scratch are much more economical and healthier to make myself. The ones that aren't much cheaper I still feel more confident making myself because I am bypassing a lot of added sugars, salt, trans fats, and preservatives I don't want in my family's diet. Not to mention the packaging that just enlarges more landfills. I feel happy to know I've found a way around some of the industrialization that impregnates our civilization.

Monday, November 5, 2012

DIY Yogurt

DIY is a new acronym I learned this year for something I have always liked to do. It seems the newest fad lately is to Do It Yourself. I perceive more people have been bitten by this bug since the economy decided to (very nearly) crash and burn, and what a delightful change. Pinterest has all sorts of DIY projects and directions that smack of the pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps attitude adopted by our Great Grandparents as a result of the Great Depression. "Fix it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." I grew up with this motto passed down to me from my father who heard it from his father, who probably heard it from his father. I like this mentality. There is less waste, less pretension, and more reality and practicality.
Well I have decided to try and make whatever I can from scratch to help lower my family's cost of living. I began making my own bread not only for this reason but also the nutritional benefits. Notice that what ever we choose to make for our families ourselves are usually healthier choices as well as more economic?


-(revision) Inspired by this post I have decided to add a Do It Yourself column listing the things I am making myself or plan to be making myself in the near future. The listed items will have links to different blogs I follow giving the instruction I will be using in on each subject.

This last week I decided yogurt was my next step. Every week I buy at least one four pack of yogurt that costs me $2.00-$3.00 each. That adds up to about $150 a year for yogurt! Last week I made eight servings of yogurt with just a quart of milk (that probably would have gone to waste due to the size of my family) and a culture packet that cost about $.83. (Which I don't have to use every time.) That means I get to save about $55.80 per year, and more if milk happens to be on sale which it generally is! That's a payment on a bill for me! I haven't figured out how much I am saving by making my own bread but I'm sure it's just as substantial. Next I plan to try making my own Mayonnaise.

Yogurt is very simple to make. A few years back I became interested in making my own yogurt and bought a yogurt maker, some books and culture. Really there are so many ingenious methods of making yogurt you don't have to own a yogurt maker to Do It Yourself.

Many parts of the world tout to be the inventors of yogurt, and the original method sounds rather disgusting to our modern sensibilities so I will leave it to your own interest and research.
Basically yogurt is made when live active cultures or bacteria are mixed with warm milk and kept at a warm temperature for several hours and then cooled. The culture thickens the milk and makes it tart, and you have yogurt. Just like the process of making cheese, yogurt is made through very natural and biological means. It doesn't take long to prepare it and you can make it the way you like it. Thick and tart, or sweet and slurpy it's up to you, but what I like best is that I get to choose what is in it. How much refined sugar, food coloring or additives and preservatives do you want to eat? I think it's exciting and empowering to DIY. Are you up for a bit of adventure?

Yogurt

Just Two Ingredients:

Milk (a quart of milk makes quite enough yogurt for one week unless you are like the people on Burn Notice and yogurt is all that you eat, or you have a large family.)

Starter (This can be a packet of freeze dried culture, or a couple tablespoons of plain yogurt. Experiment! it's fun.)

Now you heat the milk  slowly on med/low setting on the stovetop. Stir constantly to avoid scorching the milk on the bottom of the saucepan. 
If the milk is fresh just heat to 115 degrees (or heat to 180 degrees and cool it down, whatever works for you); if you have had the milk a while, heat it to the boil so as to kill any competing bacteria in the milk and then cool it to 115 degrees. Some say to pour the hot milk into a bowl to set in icy water until it cools to 115 degrees (use a candy thermometer) and some just don't heat it to the boil in the first place. I just take it off the heat and stir it and watch the temperature carefully.
When I made yogurt this last time I used an organic whole milk and just heated it to about the 115 degrees. I don't know the exact degree actually because I have this nifty thermometer that tells me exactly when the milk is yogurt making temperature. I drew out some of the milk when it was a little more than lukewarm and set it aside ahead of time.
Mix the culture in the lukewarm milk and then pour into the 115 degree milk.
Mix well, pour into containers, and keep warm for about 4-5 hours or as long as the directions on your packet give. The longer your yogurt sits warming the thicker and tarter it will be. I incubated mine for about 4 and a half hours. Then immediately set yogurt in the fridge to stop incubation and store until you are ready to eat it.
Now I have read that some women make their yogurt in crock-pots and some women use a heating pad with towels among other methods such as the oven...  I have heard you can leave it in the pan, wrap it in towels and set it in an empty cooler too. I am just glad to use my yogurt maker I bought on Amazon for about $30 or so (I can't quite remember as it was about 6 years ago.) I find it simple and am happy to be making my own yogurt again.
I eat my plain yogurt with a drizzle of honey and sometimes with some fresh berries, plums or bananas. But, there are lots of recipes for flavored yogurt to try out. Enjoy!

The Original Entertainment

I have some catch up posting to do!
Back in August I was working on finishing one of the longest books I have ever read. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. It was thrilling and insightful and I loved it. I since have read An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott, and am now halfway through Walden by Henry David Thoreau.
If you're looking for economy in the entertainment area of your life, one thing that doesn't have to cost a penny these days is reading. There are days when I just don't know what to do with myself if there isn't the money or it's too late to go to the movies or go climb rock walls, or play a round of golf. What can a person do for entertainment when all around us is costly or monotonous entertainment.
"Read a good book," my mother always encouraged me, and we all know that mothers are always right, don't we. I prefer to read classics. I always know I'll learn something new and might even build character when I read a classic. 
It used to be if you wanted to read and didn't want to buy a book, you would go to the library and check something out and then try to finish and get it back on time. I used to love to go to the library as a child. They always had charming characters and happy colored chairs, but when I became a young adult I became less and less interested in the library. Nothing seemed charming or fun about the library anymore and it felt more like going to a warehouse to find entertainment. Where's the scope for the imagination?
Now if I want to read a book I don't have to go out of my way to the library! There are websites and phone applications that have loads of free books to read. It's fantastic! When I'm standing in line, I can read, when I'm sitting in a drive-thru, I can read, when I'm on my lunch break, when I'm at home waiting for my bread to raise, when I'm just tired of TV commercials. I can read; and the best part is, there are no commercials. Reading a book keeps me excited through my day; wondering what is going to happen next in my ebook, and when I'll have the chance to find out. In addition to entertainment, there are many benefits to reading. Reading improves my vocabulary, my memory and my analytical thinking. Not to mention the knowledge I gain. I feel relaxed when I turn to a book after a particularly trying day. I also like to write a journal as a therapeutic outlet, it helps me gather my thoughts and prioritize.
Reading was a great amusement and the source of many happy childhood memories for me. My mother read to our whole family in the evenings and instilled in all of her children a respect for books and a love of learning. Books inspired conversations and ideas that we shared as a family and would never have experienced otherwise. I plan to do the same with my own family. I believe books are of fundamental importance in every person's life and we should try not to forget to read them.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Staff of Life


There is nothing else quite like the aroma of homemade bread baking. My mother was not big into making homemade bread until after I left home, but I always felt like there was something fundamentally special about it. Whenever we received a loaf of homemade bread from a friend or neighbor it was an experience that nearly brought tears to the eye. Somehow homemade bread is an indescribable joy to be given. (My mother made biscuits, and boy did she ever know how to make biscuits no one else can compare with. You might think you were eating a round white dinner roll, but they were mother's baking powder biscuits.)
Especially in the last few years I have been trying to learn how to make a fluffy, soft, tall loaf of homemade bread. A friend who instructed a bread making class said, there is something about a home where bread is made that is different than other homes. (She was not referring to the aroma of coarse but the spirit of that home.) Bread is a special food.
The french say, "vive le pan Parisian!" and believe it to be the staff of life. (So says Mireille Guiliano in her book French Women Don't Get Fat or French Women for All Seasons, I can't remember which.) In just about every culture I have had the privilege of exploring there is always some version of bread. I cannot therefore get on the band wagon with all the carbafobes and believe that bread, the most basic and oldest form of nourishment to the human body, could be bad for me. (Especially since it's been proven to be heart-healthy.)That being said; of coarse, moderation in all things is required.
In my search over many years to learn to make this perfect food correctly; I have sought expertise from the best bread makers I have met with and tried several recipes but failed every time. It wasn't till I watched a video from a company called Wild Oats and Aprons that I was able to produce this...
Aren't they just lovely? My pride and joy.. This is proof that perservierance and prayer can accomplish anything! 
The recipe used in the video I watched was strikingly similar to the recipe my instructor friend gave me for homemade whole wheat bread. I wonder if my friend knows about Wild Oats and Aprons..
The lady in the video said the recipe could be modified to be whole wheat or add oats or replace the sugar for honey and the butter for oil etc. I just used white flour to see how it turned out. She taught this recipe because it was so versatile and a good start for beginners. Like Me!
In all the prior recipes I read they talked about chemistry and the right amounts of what for high moisture days and for low moisture days etc. This recipe is simple, and EASY! I calculated the recipe to make exactly one loaf and use Honey and Coconut oil (since I have a very small family more than one loaf is simply ridiculous for me to make right now.)

Ingredients:
1+ Cup Hot Water
1 1/2 Tbsp Honey
2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
¾ tsp Salt
2 tsp Yeast
2 2/3 Cups + 2 tsp Flour

Directions:

Using an electric mixer with regular beaters, mix all but the flour together (setting 2 for only a couple seconds) in the order given and let stand for 10 minutes. Using dough hooks, mix in the Flour a cup at a time, mixing until the dough cleans the bowl and looks a bit glossy. Form dough into a loaf and place in greased bread pan, set pan on a towel on the counter and cover with another towel, let rise 20 to 30 minutes until doubled in bulk. Carefully set bread in the oven preheated to 350 degrees, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Take out of oven and slide out of pan onto a wire rack to cool so the bottom won’t get soggy. Butter the top to keep it soft and to add flavor.

Making homemade bread is cheaper than buying it at the store (especially if you try to be healthy and get whole grain or good quality.) It is much healthier for the body since one controls what goes into her own bread. And it tastes infinitely better. (When made right that is.) Bread has been a basic food staple since, well.. B.C. and I among many feel that we should give it the respect and proper place in our diet.

As I make my weekly loaf of bread I ponder the spiritual aspects of bread. I think of the Lord, The Bread of Life, and how each ingredient has reference to Jesus Christ in the scriptures. Experienced Breadmakers will tell you that bread dough is alive and it reacts to your mood and how you treat is as you mix and knead it. Thinking about the love I have for my family; especially my wonderful husband, I am making this food for helps me make a better bread. I knead a lot of kind thoughts and tenderness into my loaf for my loved ones to consume. Homemade bread blesses the lives of not only those who eat it but the person who makes it.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Personal Touch

It never fails; a friend is getting married, or it's a loved one's birthday, or someone is sick.. I go to the grocery store and spend at least an hour if not two hours looking for a card that says "From Me to You," in a special way. I usually can't find anything that feels right to me, or the only card that I like is about $6.00 (with as many birthday cards and Christmas cards as I need to send in one year I cannot afford that!) I stopped even trying and haven't send many cards in the last five years.My sister started making cards herself a few years ago and tried to spark my interest in it. So I bought a few card-making tools and never really picked it up since I was more interested in painting. Which; by the way, I never really finished. So, I recently decided to pick up card-making and join the sensation my sister and mother have already embraced. Whenever there is a special event in someones life that I am a part of I always feel bad for not at least sending a card. (I would like to buy everyone the perfect gift, but it is just not realistic for me in my current situation, not to mention extravagant.)
A homemade card is a small piece of art; a part of yourself, that you can give to someone you care about in the moment it is needed. Aside from the initial cost of buying some basic supplies, card-making is the most economical way to give a card when a letter is too much or not enough. (Thank you, or Happy Birthday.)
There is a temptation to go overboard and just start buying all the cute embellishments and stamp sets and punches that strike your fancy. In order for this to be an economical artistic outlet one must be smart with her purchases. Realistically, a person could spend a $200.00 thoughtfully and be making her own cards for several years to come.
So yesterday was one of my best friend's wedding and I made this card for her.

My best friend's favorite color is yellow and she likes daisies. It was so much fun to make this card customized for her. I hope she loves it as much as I loved making it for her, but even if she doesn't, even if it just makes her feel as special as she really is for a moment. -Mission Accomplished.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Little Lovin' from the Oven

One simple way to strengthen home and family is simply good old fashioned homemade treats. Whenever my mother made a cake or cobbler or especially cookies, it was a special treat that made you feel happy and safe. I could always taste the love in that extra little something sweet in my day, and it was better than any store bought candy or cookies could ever hope to be. (I also believe it's less expensive and more satisfying, not to mention healthier since it is less processed and has less artificial sweeteners.)
Nothing makes a dinner feel well rounded like a special dessert to follow. I've been trying to dive into my southern roots for ways to simplify and add more sense of security in my home. When I think of southern cooking; I think of fried chicken, corn on the cob, biscuits and gravy, watermelon, corn bread and pie! I can imagine going to grandmother's house just as she sets a pie on the window-sill to cool and setting down to a kitchen table to enjoy a large slice. I found just such a recipe to show your family how much you care, and it's easy at pie to make! With common kitchen ingredients, this pie is economical and a no-brain-er when in a pinch. I found this recipe on Pam's blog when searching for a real southern fried chicken recipe. My husband and in-laws loved it!
I like to prepare several pie crusts at once and freeze them individually for an impressive and comfy go to treat. All I have to do is roll out the dough and whip up some filling and a delicious pie is ready when we are! Chocolate, Banana Cream, Pumpkin, Apple, or even a Quiche!
"This recipe comes from a sweet Southern lady by the name of Miss Polly from Toone Tennessee (West Tennessee). She gave me this recipe 26 years ago and at that time she had been serving it to her family for many years. If you are a chocolate lover this pie certainly is for you. The smell of it cooking in the oven will make your toes curl and your mouth water.
 

POLLY'S CHOCOLATE FUDGE PIE

1-1/2 cups Sugar (I use only 1 cup)
3 Tbsp Cocoa
2 Eggs
1-6 oz can Evaporated Milk
1/2 stick Butter, melted
1 tsp Vanilla
1 unbaked Pie Shell

Mix all ingredients together until smooth and well blended. Pour into an unbaked pie shell and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 35 to 45 minutes or until set. Cool before serving.

Notes:
I prefer the pie slices warmed in the microwave before serving.
Add a scoop of vanilla ice-cream on the side if you are feeling really sinful.
Miss Polly would make this pie at least once a week for her family. If she didn't, she would see at least 2 or 3 pouty faces around the house for days or so she said.
I will have to say that this is one of my favorite pies.
This recipe is found in my cookbook "Blankenship Family Cookbook". Read more about my cookbook in the right margin of the blog. "

Monday, April 23, 2012

8 Cents A Wash!


Recently, I found a blogpost on how to make homemade laundry soap. I am the type of person who likes to learn how to make things one could easily buy from the store so it naturally peeked my curiosity. But, this post also struck my interest as a way to economize and to eliminate extra chemicals in my home, so I bought the ingredients and made a batch last month. I had meant to just try it on a load of clothing and then finish the name brand liquid detergent I had left over, but I have liked using it so much that I just can't bring myself to go back to that pungent chemically manufactured goo. As a bonus, I found that making my own laundry soap was actually more thrifty than even the cheapest generic brand I could find!
My Homemade laundry soap smells fresh and clean every time I open the bucket, and my clothes seem to breathe better and feel fresher. Not to mention I only have to use an ounce for a large load, and it cost me just about $12.00 to make a batch. I am converted.

"Maryjane’s Homemade Laundry Detergent Recipe

Four ingredients! Makes 16 lbs of laundry soap, means 150 full loads = 2 Tablespoons per load. Now that is some washing!

1 (4 pound) box of Super Washing Soda
1 (4 pound) box of Baking Soda
1 (4 pound) box of Borax
3 bars of Kirk’s Castile soap–Shredded (or you can use 16.5 ounces of Fels Naptha, Zote, or Ivory soaps)

Mix well and stir stir stir until fully blended. Store in a 2 gallon airtight container. That’s it! Ready to wash a load!
Add one to two heaping tablespoons in the appropriate spot in your washing machine for each load of laundry.
Enjoy the sweetness!

For HE front loader machines, dissolve 1 to 2 tbsp of detergent to hot water to make a liquid, then add to machine. Or, If you have a front loading machine you can take out the little tray that is meant for liquid only. If you put the powder in that tray it will clog. With the tray removed you can just add your scoop of dry detergent with no problems. REMEMBER it makes NO SUDS but cleans super! It works well in hard water too.

White vinegar works well in place of fabric softener. It helps keep whites bright and colors bold. Removes soap residue and it works as an anti-bacterial too. I use about 1/4 cup- just enough to fill the softener reservoir. It will NOT make your clothes smell like vinegar. If you want more fragrance, put the vinegar in the pre-rinse cycle and use your favorite fabric softener or dryer sheets; you’ll still be saving money with your homemade laundry soap."
I used the white Zote bar which is cheaper than using Fels Naptha since you get more per bar and my husband loves the smell. I do use a 1/4 cup of white vinegar, but I just pour it in the wash water after I dissolve my soap; because vinegar is an acid, if your wash tub is not rinsed after using even a small amount, it can cause your tub to start to rust.
Here's what my batch of Laundry Soap turned out looking like:
I stirred it with a wooden broom handle in my bucket like an old witch ha ha ha..

Monday, April 2, 2012

Finding a Way to Simplify

Last year a talk was giving in the April General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints by Elder M. Russell Ballard admonishing us to simplify our lives so we can dedicate them to the service of the Lord. There were many wonderful talks given that day, but this one found special place in my heart. I have been reading Walden written by Henry David Thoreau and feeling a clarity about the freedom one can retain by living simply. The words of Elder Ballard found harmony with the lessons I had been learning from the written word of Thoreau and resounded in my heart a desire to enjoy a more simple life. The question is "how?"We have been warned of the constricting conditions of debt for decades now, but it seems in order for a person to live a normal life these days, or even just survive, one must assume a certain amount of debt. And that debt limits our options.
So how do I gain control of my life again? I have to pay off my debt ,and with limited resources that becomes a very real challenge.
The only answer is to simplify my lifestyle. I don't need trendy clothes to look my best and that means I don't need to spend my precious time at the mall every week. I don't need to eat at fancy restaurants to be well-nourished and cultured. I don't need to own the latest CDs, Movies and Magazines to be modern. I don't need different makeup for every day of the week. I don't need expensive hair treatments to look well groomed. And, I don't need to fill every spare moment of everyday with entertainment, which sometimes seems to take over some of my house-work time and family-time and worship-time.
As I simplify my life I know I will become more and more free. Elder Ballard said, "Against this beautiful backdrop of spring and its symbolism of hope, there is a world of uncertainty, complexity, and confusion. The demands of everyday life—education, jobs, raising children, Church administration and callings, worldly activities, and even the pain and sorrow of unexpected illness and tragedy—can wear us down. How can we free ourselves from this tangled web of challenges and uncertainties to find peace of mind and happiness?...Brothers and sisters, the gospel of Jesus Christ is simple, no matter how much we try to make it complicated. We should strive to keep our lives similarly simple, unencumbered by extraneous influences, focused on those things that matter most....
The Savior spoke of this principle when He answered the Pharisee who asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
“This is the first and great commandment.
“And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:36–40)....
It is only when we love God and Christ with all of our hearts, souls, and minds that we are able to share this love with our neighbors through acts of kindness and service—the way that the Savior would love and serve all of us if He were among us today."
I have been studying the lives of women from the 1950's, when men were men and women were women- I heard it put. Life seemed to be so much clearer then and I wondered how those women worked so hard and still had time to do their hair and makeup, and act happy all the time for their husbands. I admire the strength of a woman who can work hard all day to keep a house without many of our modern day conveniences and is still self-less enough to put on her best face for her children and husband's well-being and be happy for the simple joys in life they bring. It is enough, dispite what the modern TV shows, magazines and the business women may say. I am happiest when I have spent the more part of my energy in the day improving the life of my family and showing kindness to others. It is the little things that count the most. A thoughtfully prepared breakfast, a shining clean bathroom, a smile met at the door...
My goal is to find little ways to simplify my life; so I will have more time and more freedom to contemplate the more important things in life, and to serve the Lord and my family more diligently. (So we can be happier.)
No resolution works without a plan so, here is my plan..
I am going to find ways to not spend money by:
1. Eating more meals at home. I will learn to shop only for groceries that I know we will eat immediately if they will not keep for months. I will also learn to prepare more simple meals that do not require hours of preparation and unusual ingredients.
2. Learn how to keep and plant a vegetable garden to supplement our food source and provide a more nutritious diet.
3. I will moderate my hobbies and interests, so I will not make unnecessary purchases that add up to large amounts of money, and sit untouched for several months at a time. (These are good things but do require moderation.)
4. Be more industrious. Instead of indulging the inclination that I am too tired from my job to do housework, exercise, or cut my husbands hair; I will cowgirl up and busy myself with important activities to better my family's quality of life and rest my pocketbook.
5. I will spend more time studying the gospel instead of studying possessions I don't have.

I have created this blog to share my adventures, progress, successes and learning experiences with those who share my vision and take an interest in my endeavors. I hope it will be of some use to someone somewhere, or at least serve as a reminder to myself of what I am trying to accomplish. Thank you to whomever may be reading this. I appreciate your support and interest.